Dan Snierson
June 27, 2009 AT 11:36 PM EDT

Francis Ford Coppola — who directed Captain Eo, a 3-D fantasy film starring Michael Jackson that was shown at Disney theme parks — issued this statement to EW.com about the pop star: “I knew him slightly, mainly during the time I worked on Captain Eo. Every Friday, I’d buy him a present — something small and fun — and he’d be very excited about what it was. He was very sweet, but also very deliberate. He loved to learn and during rehearsal he had fun learning how to properly salute and do an about face. He got a kick out of being military. He reminded me of a kid — innocent, eager and joyful.” Jackson died on Thursday at the age of 50.

More reflections on Michael Jackson’s death:
Steven Spielberg remembers Michael Jackson (EW exclusive)
Mark Romanek, director of “Scream” video, remembers Michael Jackson (EW exclusive)
Elizabeth Taylor issues statement on Michael Jackson
Lisa Marie Presley writes emotional blog post about Michael Jackson’s death

Justin Timberlake: ‘We have lost a genius’
Janet Jackson: ‘Grief-stricken and devastated’
Michael Jackson: Friends and colleagues mourn his passing

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